NEW DELHI: Bringing to fore the grim state of child healthcare in India, a new UNICEF report has found that around 1.2 million children died of preventable causes in the country last year before reaching the age of five years.
The report also said that five countries, led by India, will account for more than half of the global burden of under-five deaths by 2030. India will account for 17 percent of such deaths, Nigeria 15 percent, Pakistan 8 percent, Congo 7 percent and Angola 5 percent.
The average rate of reduction of neo-natal mortality required for India to reach the set target is almost double the current level.
The latest State of the World's Children report by UNICEF said that most of the deaths were caused by diseases easily preventable and treatable. It counts India among the five countries accounting for half the 5.9 million under-five deaths reported across the world last year.
In India, premature and neonatal birth complications were the biggest killers at 39 percent followed by pneumonia at 14.9 percent, diarrhoea at 9.8 percent and sepsis at 7.9 percent among others.
Though India’s under-five mortality rate -- deaths per 1,000 live births -- has improved to 48 from 126 deaths in 1990, it still has a lot of catching up to do.
India, which reported 25 million births in 2015, is the third worst offender in the southeast Asian region after Afghanistan and Pakistan. Its next door neighbours Nepal and Bangladesh have a better under-five mortality rate of 36 and 38, respectively.
China, whose economic growth has slowed in recent days, recorded only 11 under-five deaths per 1,000 live births.
The other four countries are Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Pakistan, whose economies are smaller when compared with India’s.
“… some countries in the fast lane for global economic growth- including India and Nigeria – have been in the slower lane for child mortality reduction,” says the report adding that the policy lesson is that economic growth can help but does not guarantee improved child survival.
On education, the UNICEF report said that in India being from a poor household means a learning penalty as compared to children from rich households. By the age of 11 years children in India who come from rich households and have educated parents have a huge advantage.
In India, the gap between children from poor and rich households getting education is 19 percent.
It says that India has much to celebrate in the area of education also, particularly in ensuring children’s access to school, through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and implementation of the Right to Education Act.
This is reflected in the near-universal enrollment in primary education and the steady decrease in numbers of out-of-school children. The number of out-of-school children between 6 to 13 years has declined from approximately 8 million in 2009 to 6 million in 2014.
Releasing the report here, Louis-Georges Arsenault, Representative, UNICEF India said: “The early years are foundational and children who start behind, stay behind. There are long-term consequences, particularly for the most marginalised and disadvantaged children, when they enter school without a quality preschool education. And gaps between disadvantaged children and other children become harder to bridge at later points in their education.”
The report which was released worldwide, says notes that significant progress has been made in saving children’s lives, getting children into school and lifting people out of poverty.
“But this progress has been neither even nor fair”, the report said.
Flagging education as a major issue, it said that although education plays a unique role in levelling the playing field for children, the number of children who do not attend school has increased since 2011, and a significant proportion of those who do go to school are not learning.
Globally, about 124 million children today do not go to primary and lower-secondary school, and almost 2 in 5 who do finish primary school have not learned how to read, write or do simple arithmetic.